On Kristel Tejada’s suicide
Kristel Tejada, a 16-year-old first year behavioral science student from the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, committed suicide early Friday morning. Tejada has been asked by her home college to go on a leave of absence (LOA) for the current semester last March 13 because of her inability to pay the required matriculation fee in full.
Citing Article 335 of the UP System Code, Dr. Marie Josephine de Luna of UP Manila’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, released last October a memorandum stressing to all faculty members that students who are not “duly matriculated” should not be allowed to attend classes and must be removed from their class list. De Luna added that such students should instead be “advised” to go on leave. Professor Carl Marc Ramota, chair of UP Manila’s social sciences department, uploaded pictures of the said memo here and here.
‘No permit, no exam’
As soon as the scheduled day for the final examination (or any major exam, for that matter) is announced, students and their parents across the country are faced with a dreaded but unavoidable situation – the need to pay school fees on time. This is especially true in private higher education institutions (HEIs). For countless families, raising the needed amount can be extremely tough. Other problems, like delays in money remittance, may also pop out.
Teachers, on the other hand, also have their own dilemma. Out of humaneness, most teachers will instinctively let students take an exam even if they don’t have a permit. In an attempt to address this situation, school administrators are adamant in reminding members of the faculty about the “no permit, no exam” policy.
Once students settle all their financial obligations to the school for the semester, the Office of the Registrar will issue to them a test permit. This, in turn, will be shown to the test proctor during the exam day. Ergo, students who are not yet fully paid should not be allowed to take the exam.
Most parents blame teachers for the situation, which is unfair. Teachers implement their school’s “no permit, no exam” policy because they don’t have a choice. Who wants to be charged with insubordination? Will you bite the hand that feeds you?
The government, through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), prohibits the implementation of such a policy. In Article XX, section 99 of CHED’s Manual of Regulations for Private Higher Education, it is stated: “No (HEI) shall deny final examinations to a student who has outstanding financial or property obligations, including unpaid tuition and other school fees corresponding to the school term.”
Schools are nevertheless allowed to withhold the final grades or refuse re-enrollment of those students. In such a case, teachers must make sure that their final grades are “duly recorded and submitted to the registrar together with the final grades of the rest of the students.” In a memorandum order issued in 2010, then CHED Chair Emmanuel Angeles ordered HEIs to extend “utmost flexibility” in the implementation of the said policy.
Angeles stressed that students should be allowed to execute a promissory note guaranteed by their parents. And in an attempt to ease concerns by school owners about students not paying their incurred debts, Angeles noted that HEIs have the right to withhold the release of issuance of a student’s clearance before graduation until all accountabilities are settled. Evidently, there is a way to balance a school’s financial interests and students’ rights.
In the current Congress, legislators led by Kabataan party list Rep. Raymond Palatino filed House Bill (HB) 4791 which seeks to punish schools that are implementing the “no permit, no exam” policy. The House of Representatives has passed the bill in third and final reading in 2011 but it failed to gain traction in the Senate. Download HB 4791 here.